It’s no secret that smoking poses a risk to your health. This is why your smoking status affects the cost of taking out life insurance – and not insignificantly. Below we’ll explain how life insurance for smokers works, what counts as being a smoker (or a non-smoker), and how quitting can reduce your life insurance premiums.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance gives financial protection to those you care about if you die. You pay monthly premiums to your chosen insurer, who’ll then pay out an agreed lump sum if a valid claim is made during the policy term. A life insurance payout could give the most important people in your life – most commonly your partner or children – the financial support they need to cope without you and your income.

Any adult over the age of 18 can take out life insurance, but in many cases, people start to think about getting life insurance once they have financial dependents who rely on their income or assets. Read more about how life insurance works here.

Why does smoking affect life insurance costs?

All insurance policies are based on risk. The hard truth is: smoking poses risks to your health that increase the likelihood of you dying sooner than if you were a non-smoker. From an insurer’s perspective, they’ll want to charge higher premiums if there’s a greater chance of a claim being made on your life insurance policy during the policy term. That’s why it’s more expensive to get insured if you’re a smoker.

Am I classed as a smoker?

If you’ve used nicotine in the last 12 months, you’ll be categorised as a smoker for life insurance purposes. When you apply for a policy, you’ll need to answer some health questions, and your smoking status will be part of that. Even if you’re an occasional or ‘social smoker’, you’ll still need to disclose your nicotine usage truthfully. If a medical report reveals that you gave inaccurate information about your smoker status when you applied – known as ‘misrepresentation’ – any future claim on the policy could be invalidated.

Does vaping affect my life insurance?

Yes. At the moment, most insurers consider any nicotine replacement products – like patches, gum, vapes and e-cigarettes – to be no different to tobacco products. Just as they don’t differentiate full-time or part-time smokers, most insurers won’t differentiate between people who smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes vs. those who use a nicotine replacement product.

This is the situation for now, but it could change in the future (some insurers are already considering reduced premiums for nicotine-replacement users). It’s partly because there’s no clear medical consensus around the health impact of vaping yet. And partly because a nicotine addiction could indicate a propensity to go back to using tobacco products, even if you’re currently using nicotine replacement alternatives.

When will I be classed as a non-smoker?

If you’ve not smoked or used nicotine replacement alternatives for 12 months, you can state that you’re a non-smoker in your life insurance application. This will reduce your premiums. If you quit smoking while you have a life insurance policy, it could well be worth revisiting the cover you have in place. Cancelling your policy and taking out a new policy as a non-smoker could be a cheaper option, even if you’re older (though again, the 12 month rule will apply).

How much will life insurance cost me as a smoker?

Taking out life insurance as a smoker will mean you’ll pay higher premiums – but how much higher? We’ve put together some price comparisons to show how smoker vs. non-smoker premiums compare. We all know that quitting smoking is good for our health and finances – but it can also significantly reduce how much it costs to insure your life.

Find out which life insurance policy is best if you smoke. First, how old are you?
  • Life insurance premiums are higher for smokers than non-smokers due to increased health risks
  • Insurers base their prices on risk, and if you're smoker, they'll see you as higher risk (and more likely to make a claim on your policy)
  • Most insurers treat nicotine replacement products like patches and vaping the same as cigarettes (though this could change in the future)
  • You can classify yourself as a non-smoker if you quit smoking or using nicotine replacement alternatives for 12 months
  • It’s very important to be honest about your smoking status when you apply for life insurance – otherwise you risk invalidating a future claim
How much does being a smoker increase the cost of life insurance?
Life insurance is more expensive for smokers than it is for non-smokers because insurers see smokers as being higher risk to insure. The price of life insurance varies depending on several factors, but we have seen it cost between 50%-100% more for a smoker to take out cover (compared to a non-smoker of the same profile).
Do you have to tell your life insurer if you start smoking?
If you take up smoking for the first time after taking out a life insurance policy, you wouldn’t need to inform your insurer. After that point, the terms have been agreed and the insurer can’t change them.
How do insurers know if you smoke?
Insurers would be able to ascertain whether or not you smoke through a medical report from your GP. It’s important to be honest about this when you apply to make sure it doesn’t cause a problem if/when a claim is made. For particularly large sums of life insurance, insurers may require you to take a cotinine test (to see if nicotine is detected) before insuring you.
Am I still classed as a smoker if I vape?
Yes. Insurers currently treat nicotine-replacement products in the same way as tobacco products, so you’ll be classed as a smoker if you use a vape. This is something that could change in the future, if the medical consensus around vaping becomes clearer.
How long do you have to stop smoking to be classed a non-smoker?
You need to have stopped smoking for 12 months to be considered a non-smoker when applying for life insurance. It’s very important to be honest about this as even occasional use could invalidate a future claim.